GM crops can now be grown on South Australian mainland

By Rodney Woods

New laws to allow genetically modified crops to be grown on the South Australian mainland have passed that state's parliament.

The legislation lifts a moratorium on GM crops first imposed in 2003.

The ban will remain in place on Kangaroo Island.

“South Australian farmers have been looking forward to this day for nearly two decades,” Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone said.

“By lifting the GM moratorium on mainland South Australia, we are backing our farmers and researchers to grow the state's agriculture sector and create jobs.

“Now our grain growers have the certainty they need to invest in GM seed and plant GM crops in time for the 2021 grain growing season.”

Under the new arrangements, local councils will have six months to apply to remain GM-free, although a final decision will still rest with the minister.

Councils must consult with primary producers and food manufacturers in their area as well as the broader community.

The SA Government last year conducted an independent review that found the GM ban had cost the state's grain growers at least $33 million over the previous 15 years.

However, those supporting the ban said it also offered growers an advantage on international markets with local produce promoted as ‘clean and green'.

Grain Producers SA chief executive Caroline Rhodes said the passage of the legislation would restore grower choice in South Australia.

“This bill establishes a level playing field for South Australian growers with their interstate counterparts,” she said.

“We are backing the state's grain industry to manage the transition out of the moratorium in a sensible manner and look forward to growers finally being able to make their own choices about which crops they want to grow without the hindrance of legislators.”

But Greens MP Mark Parnell criticised the move, saying the changes were taking South Australia "down a one-way street to a place we can't return from".